The story takes place, the narrator says, "at the U- of C- at D- in the spring of the year 196-" but the name of the school is not important; more important is that "a War was going on. . . . It was going on overseas in jungles and rice paddies. But every day there was increasing evidence that it was a real War, even though it had never officially been declared."
For Roger Osborn and his gaggle of freshman buds the war is a distant reality, though not the fear that some of them might be whisked away to fight in it. They must keep the draft board at bay and learn how to live together in Glen House, "the university's euphemism for the World War Two army barracks set under the trees like rows of gray two-story shoeboxes."
Such is the setting of "DeLancey's Stapler: Love, Lust, Duty, Doom, Rage, Revelation and Pizza" ($17.98 from AuthorHouse) by Dave Veith. The author writes me that he's retired, in his mid-sixties, and "originally came to Chico in '53, attended Chico High ‘62 and UC Davis ‘66, worked primarily as a systems analyst in the Bay Area, moved back after 44 years, married with four grown kids. My father Donald Veith taught English at Chico State. My mother Lois McDonald wrote several books on local history, including 'Annie Bidwell: An Intimate History.'"
The publicity release captures the scene: "Professors profess from the pulpits of various disciplines, a neon mermaid throbs in the night sky at the apex of the business district, and the latest Girl of the Month appears like clockwork in brazen glory on the wall above Roger Osborn’s Love Candle." Stapled there, one might add, by Lawrence DeLancey's stapler. There's a late-bloomer kid called The Gnat, who feels like one when he sees the immensity of the night sky. There's knockout Shelly Wenceslas and the beauteous young housemother Susan Thurlby to stir things up.
The book is like one of those crude college movies without the crudity (though testosterone abounds) and in the end it's something more, a meditation on the importance of comradeship in the midst of war or the shock of random events. Veith is a writer to watch.